The Inauguration speech by the Magnificent Rector Luigi Maria Terracciano for the new Academic Year 2023/2024

“I warmly welcome everyone to the inauguration of Humanitas Universitys 2023/2024 Academic Year.

A sincere and special thanks to the Minister of University and Research, Senator Anna Maria Bernini, and to the Minister of Health, Prof. Orazio Schillaci, for honouring this ceremony with their presence and their speeches.

Welcome to all the Institutions present: the President of the Lombardy Region, the Mayor of Pieve Emanuele and the Mayor of Milan, as well as all the Academic, Civil, Military and Religious Authorities.

I would like to express my cordial greetings and my appreciation to the Pro-Rectors and Rector Delegates of the University, for the constant, effective and friendly support they have assured me when performing my duties. As always, I welcome and express my thanks to the Scientific Director, Prof. Alberto Mantovani, as well as to my fellow lecturers, the technical administrative staff and, with special affection, to the students.

In 2024 Humanitas University celebrates the tenth anniversary of its foundation and today also marks the opening of the academic year that has seen me becoming Rector.

The Report that I am about to present – shorter than usual due to today’s busy schedule – describes a special year in which, while the dark shadow of a possible war is cast across the world, a war which for some is unforeseen and incomprehensible, universities have the mission to represent a free zone, a no-war but not neutral land, in which different cultures and histories must continue to communicate while maintaining a common language for the future. In times of uncertainty and crisis, it is essential to rediscover and focus on the fundamental role of universities in building strong and free communities.

Before addressing this topic that is central to the life of our university, however, I would like to go back to the speech of our President, Dr. Gianfelice Rocca, to share a vision that I find exciting for the future, a project that goes beyond the creation of a traditional medical university. We are talking about building a community, a place where education is not only the transmission of knowledge, but also a constant exercise in dialogue, inclusion and cultural exchange between the various branches of knowledge within Health Sciences.

The University we are planning for the coming years aims to become an important educational reference for life sciences. Its purpose goes beyond mere medical education and instead wants to offer a range of care that embraces every single person.

We are training medical professionals, nurses, physiotherapists, technicians with various skills, and above all we are educating individuals who are aware of their role in society and their responsibility to contribute to the collective well-being.

Our idea of the academic community of the future is one in which the Hospital is combined with Education and Research.

We want to build a new type of healthcare professional, capable of integrating with all the other healthcare professionals like doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, professionals from the technical, rehabilitation and prevention areas, in a horizontal and no longer vertical training approach.

A fundamental objective of our University is the integration of all health professions at every level, in a clear context of peculiarities and competences. Our bet at Humanitas University is the development of an inter-professional culture, focused on taking care of the person who suffers.

I say person, and not patient, to emphasise that the human figure must be at the centre instead of a disease that identifies the patient with his symptoms in a dry manner.

We know that developing this interprofessional culture, with a continuous contamination of knowledge, will not come without cultural, organisational, and regulatory obstacles, but, in our opinion, this is necessary to build the type of healthcare professional we are aiming for, in all its aspects.

The need for this new professional figure is motivated by cultural rather than managerial reasons, and we know that this project must be sustainable. This is why we also bet on proximity medicine and local areas becoming places for relationships and care.

Our central objective is to promote a holistic vision of health, in which the patient is at the centre of an integrated team working together for his well-being. Quoting a speech by Mariella Enoc, former President of the Bambin Gesù Hospital, ‘the challenge for a university like this is to train doctors and healthcare professionals who can be great experts in humanity, from within their own professions.

The role of the doctor in recent decades has changed profoundly. When I started working, there was a sort of aura of sacredness and paternity around the figure of the doctor. Today, the real great achievement of medical ethics is the patient’s authonomy and the fact that patients are involved in decisions and give their consent and cooperation.

For doctors, recognising the patients’ autonomy means involving them in decisions and asking for their consent. Autonomy, understood in this sense, is often invoked as a defence against both futile treatment and the paternalism of doctors. In a broader sense, and in the light of a more structured theoretical perspective, especially from a libertarian perspective, patient autonomy is regarded as a supreme and overriding principle, the decisive criterion for evaluating moral choices.

This interpretation, however, entails the risk of reducing the doctor-patient relationship to a cold, technical one. The academic training of physicians and healthcare personnel that took hold during the 20th century progressively shifted its centre of gravity from the patient’s bed to the laboratory bench.

Medicine, the most humanistic of the scientific disciplines and the most scientific of the humanities, has become an aseptic and hyper-specialist activity, which has lost sight of the patient in his or her wholeness, and has inevitably impoverished its own therapeutic capacity, founded precisely on the uniqueness of the relationship with the patient.

It is therefore essential to encourage a multidimensional approach in training, aimed at creating connections between what is already formally provided (bioethics, history of medicine, medical pedagogy, hygiene and public health) and what is not yet structured (medical anthropology, sociology, literature and art).

It is necessary to train doctors and health personnel with those soft relational-communicative and managerial-operational skills that must necessarily go hand in hand with hard technical skills, in a holistic perspective that considers Medical Humanities as an integral part of the ‘tool bag’ for doctors in the 21st century.

Life sciences are going through an era of accelerated evolution with technological development and precision medicine. However, this progress must not forget the essential role of human beings.

First of all, we as scientists need to develop a correct approach towards artificial intelligence.

It means knowing our tendency to recognise the automatisms operating in the machine or to assume ithas a magical ability to solve complex problems. We must therefore investigate anthropology, at least that of the advanced West, to understand how our shortcomings, frailties and insecurities are compensated for, by evoking a powerful, reassuring and enchanting “Otherness”, capable of relieving us of the distressing responsibility of making decisions under conditions of uncertainty.

Digital technologies, like writing and printing before, foreshadow a great revolution in the process of creating, organising and validating knowledge with a great impact on our welfare system as well.

It is important to manage this transformation to preserve justice, freedom, equality among human beings and to guide the contribution and role of Artificial Intelligence in Health Sciences.

The challenge is not only technical: it concerns above all what kind of policy to pursue. Automated decision-making could irreversibly alter the rules of civil coexistence and, in the world of Health Sciences, establish pervasive practices in the diagnostic, therapeutic and surveillance process.

There is a lot at stake. We need to identify what competence counts the most when it comes to the recognition of scientific validity criteria, and more: we are debating which processes define human subjectivity, the delegation to technology, and the governance of intuition and imagination. We are going through a transitional phase in which we can still establish practices and institutions capable of deciding how to manage artificial intelligence in the medical field.

Technology is an interface through which we can relate socially, but also a connection to other living beings and the inorganic world. We need to reflect on what options will make such relationships more durable and flourishing, especially if we intend ourselves as the node of a triadic system in which technology can perform functions of mediation, representation and intervention, without creating a phantom, ambiguous and one-size-fits-all rationality.

Within the context of strong technological changes, we must also consider the demand from the political world for changes in the access to the Master of Science degrees in Medicine and Surgery. As emphasised by the President of the Conference of Italian University Rectors, Prof. Giovanna Iannantuoni, identifying a sustainable increase in the number of candidates reflects the challenge to find a balance between the needs of several parties: on the one hand, those of young aspiring doctors, each with his or her own dream to pursue and the legitimate desire to see it realised; on the other, the need to defend the National Health System, which requires a continuous monitoring of the need for doctors; and, finally, the need for quality training, which must be adequately supported.

The only way to give meaning to the necessary reforms is to take action with a clear idea of the model of the University that we want to build.

Humanitas University is committed to actively contributing to this change, promoting a vision in which advanced technologies complement, but do not replace, the fundamental value of the human person, who must remain at the centre of every decision in the medical field.

The University’s challenges are the country’s challenges to restart and to grow in competitiveness at European and international level. With 43% of our undergraduate medical students coming from other countries, Humanitas University has an international vocation in its DNA, which is why we are particularly sensitive to what happens beyond our national borders.

The recent global events of the past few months have brought insecurity, especially for our students, and have severely affected our feeling of community, a term I use by no coincidence.

Universities are places that build critical consciences and train women and men capable of coping with change and directing the future. This is what lecturers, technical, scientific and administrative staff and students do together. Despite insecurities and a sense of uncertainty, this past year the university community has managed to bring out the most authentic and fascinating role of science, which is to glue together individual consciences beyond any ethnic or religious affiliation. A space of inclusion and equity in which we can overcome the territorial, social and gender gaps that may still exist.

We must continue to invest in people: this means promoting programmes not only to strengthen competence profiles, but also to consolidate the careers of young students and support mobility between different institutions.

Academic life also needs suitable places to grow and strengthen. The Roberto Rocca Innovation Building represents a concrete response to our need to always be on the cutting edge, not only for the development of research, but above all for a real and fruitful contamination of knowledge, methods and skills, like in the MEDTEC School born from the collaboration with the Milan Polytechnic.

Looking to the future, I see Humanitas University developing in a way that embraces these principles. In the years to come, we will work to build state-of-the-art infrastructure that supports our mission.

We are creating innovative academic programmes: a Master of Science in Data Analytics and Artificial Intelligence in Health Sciences in collaboration with Bocconi University, as well as new PhD courses in collaboration with other universities closely connected to the world of industry and institutions, such as the Politecnico di Milano.

We will promote cutting-edge research that contributes to scientific progress and community care, as we are doing with the implementation inside the Innovation Building of two new laboratories: the 3D Innovation Lab, which combines classic 3D printing technologies, with resins and silicones, with new cell and tissue-based printing machines; and the CLEM Core, a platform that integrates optical microscopy with electron microscopy, all the way down to the molecular scales.

Increasing importance will also be given to our commitment to social responsibility, the true ‘third mission‘ of every university, which sees us as promoters of development, inclusion, and access to knowledge, particularly in the local area and the Milan metropolitan area. The wellbeing of people, attention to healthy lifestyles and an ever-increasing awareness of our responsibility in this area too will be at the heart of our actions and our cultural proposal.

In conclusion, our vision of developing a University of Health Sciences goes beyond professional training: the goal is to build a community that embraces the values of education, dialogue, inclusion and cultural exchange.

Humanitas University has the ambition to be the place where life sciences are integrated in harmony with personal and community care.

Looking ahead, we will work tirelessly to shape a future in which technology and the human person work together for the benefit of all.

Thank you for your attention.”


Humanitas is a highly specialized Hospital, Research and Teaching Center. Built around centers for the prevention and treatment of cancer, cardiovascular, neurological and orthopedic disease – together with an Ophthalmic Center and a Fertility Center – Humanitas also operates a highly specialised Emergency Department.